After a bit of trial and error I have built what I consider to be an almost silent PC server. I quickly identified that most of the noise comes from fans, these are a necessary evil to cool your PC, but there are quieter alternatives. By removing the chipset fans altogether and replacing them with larger and more efficient heatsinks, I was able to cut down noise while keeping the components adequately cooled.
I chose the quietest hard disks I could find, the Seagate Barracuda 7200.7 ST380011A. Seagate claim “idle accoustics of 2.5 bels – the industry’s best” and I do agree that they are remarkably quiet.
Next was the PSU. I initially tried a Zalman AM300B-APS “ultra-quiet” PSU but this was still too noisy for my delicate ears. Instead I opted for an Etasis EFN-300 300W 0db fanless ATX PSU. As the name implies, this has no fans at all and relies on dissipating heat through metal fins exposed at the back of the unit. I was initially concerned that the fins would run hot, but it has been surprisingly cool to the touch – and reliable!
Finally I tackled the CPU (AMD Athlon XP 2200+ 1.8GHz SoA). This is the one component that runs very hot and cannot generally be cooled by passive convection. I installed a Zalman CNPS7000B-AlCu Super Flower Cooler which has a silent mode by adjusting the fan speed using the ‘FAN MATE 2’ accessory. It is not totally silent, but at low speeds is probably as good as you could expect.
Overall, my silent PC server has been a roaring 😉 success. It has been running continuously since September 2004 and none of the modified components have showed any signs of failing. The CPU and twin Seagate disk drives run at a constant 48°C, both well within normal operating temperatures.